Yes, it really is that time of year again! Only this year … rumour has it Santa is aiming for a lot less plastic in stockings and sacks around the world. If you think he and his elves might need a bit of inspiration, we’ve put a list together of our favourite plastic-free gift ideas.
First, we have a few tips on how to shape your shopping, so as to avoid plastic more easily:
- Buying from second-hand shops can yield gift gold: there are some fantastic finds to be made – both rare, vintage items and heavily discounted all-time pleasers. Check out local second-hand shops, charity stores, online communities, and localised selling groups on Facebook.
- Support local stores and craft markets – the latter are usually in abundance in the run-up to Christmas. Supporting the independent and solo craftspeople spreads even more Christmas joy!
- If you decide to turn to the web, online craft marketplaces such as Etsy and Not on the High Street are great places to find unique products. Shopping at these retailers often means supporting craftspeople who make a living from their handmade goods, and small businesses.
- If you buy online, ask the seller about packaging and shipping material before placing an order. If more of us ask the question, eventually companies will start reducing packaging material.
Now, on to the fun bit – some gift inspiration!
- Wooden toys
Depending where you are in the world, wooden toys might be relatively easy to source. There’s a whole world of wooden toys out there – including beautiful farm sets, doll’s houses, jigsaws and puzzles, and even wooden board games, which are great as a gift for the whole family or a group of friends. And my favourite, this sushi wooden food set, clearly for more advanced palates! Wooden toys look and feel nostalgic, and yet you know they’re likely to be in the family forever, passed down to future generations. Truly, they are the gift that keeps giving.
- Metal bubble wands
Sometimes avoiding plastic is as simple as thinking what you’d usually reach for when searching for a plastic-free alternative (if that sounds incredibly simplistic it’s because it really is!). Kids love blowing bubbles; it’s a timeless pastime, or so it seems! It’s a great way to keep children occupied for … well … whole minutes! Which as any parent can testify, is worth its weight in gold.
Metal bubble wands can carry a slightly heavier price tag than their plastic counterparts, but consider the money you might save on the disposable plastic alternatives. Searching sites such as Etsy and Not On The High Street are likely to yield some beautiful results.
Of course, it’s really easy to make your own bubble wands too – a simple case of manipulating some florist’s wire into a handle and circle, then adorn as you wish with ribbons, glass beads or anything else you !
- Bird whistles
Perhaps not as common a pastime is learning to whistle like a bird – and seeing how many of our feathered friends you can confuse in the process. If you’re feeling brave (and up for a lot of whistling about the house!) this bright and cheerful bird whistle will go down a real, ahem, tweet. Similar options can be found around the world, from the plain to the adorned. This particular gift isn’t only suitable for kids – it’s a sweet gift for our twitcher friends too.
- Pin badges
Here in the UK, you can’t walk very far without coming across the pin badge trend. Pins make the perfect, personal touch to a collection of gifts as they are small in both size and price. Again, websites such as Etsy and Not On The High Street will provide for a wide range of alternatives made by independent crafters. Choose pins made of metal or wood. Avoid plastic.
Stationery can be an easy win as it makes for a great gift across the ages – even for the very young, as everyone loves a good pencil to scribble with! However, stationery also poses challenges. Plastic is rife throughout the humble pencil case, from the pencil case itself, through to plastic rulers, gel pens, biros, etc.
Fountain pens make for a brilliant alternative, particularly converter types (those that refill from the ink bottle) for recipients that have steady hands. An other alternative are refillable ballpoint pens. It’s better to buy refills than to buy entirely new pens. Wooden rulers bring a hint of nostalgia to the school room, and there are a vast range of fabric pencil cases to help you avoid plastic.
For those of us who are passionate about going plastic free, Christmas brings the (somewhat evangelical) benefit of encouraging others to join us on this journey by trying some alternatives. Toiletries are a great way to introduce others to some easy plastic-free options.
Beautiful soaps and bath bombs are easy to find – just check that the packaging doesn’t include plastic. Stores such as Lush, in the USA, UK and in some other European countries, sell many products without plastic packaging. They stock a dizzying array of toiletries, from bath and shower products through to slightly more adventurous (for the uninitiated) options, such as solid shampoo and conditioner bars.
Aromatherapy oils also make for a lovely gift, especially if they are specific to your loved one’s needs and reflects an underpinning thoughtfulness. Aromatherapy usually comes in glass; however, do make sure that they are pre-blended as using essential oils neat can irritate the skin.
- Tin toys
It’s difficult to resist the charm of mechanised tin toys. Tin toys are becoming increasingly difficult to find, however, looking at the staple Etsy and Not On The High Street, as mentioned previously, may help you – or check eBay, Craigslist or second-hand stores to see whether you can pick up a bargain vintage piece.
- Rag dolls
Rag dolls may seem like an extraordinarily Victorian-era suggestion but their popularity continues among young children who love the combination of the parent-child roleplay opportunity with something snuggable and cuddly. Rag dolls are widely available from large online conglomerates through to specialist websites. Make sure to avoid polyester (because this is plastic). Choose wool, cotton, or other non-plastic materials. You can also easily make your own – a great opportunity to share with a child, who is likely to feel an even greater bond with their doll after crafting it themselves.
Speaking of crafting, craft kits can be an excellent stocking filler – it’s the perfect task for Christmas Day evening, once the excitement has led to a certain level of cosy and quiet contemplation, or for the length of a relatively uneventful Boxing Day. Options abound: anything from knitting (make sure to avoid nylon yarn!), cross-stitch, clay work, etc.
Books are the perfect ageless gift, and almost impossible not to appear thoughtful through a well-chosen topic or genre. Magazines are also a great stocking filler – just take care to avoid those that come with annoying plastic freebies that lose their interest almost as soon as the Christmas Day is done. Pro-tip: Choose books on green living to inspire family and friends, such as Beth Terry’s book “How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” or Caroline Jones’ recently published “How to go plastic free.”
Other choices …
There are so many obvious ideas to include, such as candles, sweet treats (again, please take care with packaging!), wooden frames (with glass rather than plastic), ceramic goods – the list goes on.
Are you going plastic free this Christmas? Do you have any tips on stocking fillers that you could share?